My #1 flaw is my temper. Specifically, losing it. Suddenly and drastically.
My dad, sister and I are all the same: We’re friendly, nice and reasonable, until someone is rude or idiotic and then we LOSE IT.
Actually I’m probably worse than they are: Over the years when I’ve lost my temper at home, I’ve thrown things. Glasses. Not at people, but against walls, into the fireplace…once I threw a mug at the kitchen island.
Before having kids, I was also a sidewalk vigilante. When cars sped through red lights or zoomed around corners practically running over pedestrians, I let them have it. I won’t elaborate.
Babies make you better…
In any event, none of this truly bothered me until I had a baby.
One of the best – and hardest – things about having children is that they inspire you to be a better person, agree?
With a baby cuddled against me in a wrap, I stopped shouting obscenities at dangerous drivers. (For the most part.) I try to be more under control in general, to set a good example and also shield the children from upset & confrontation. (Do you have any idea what a challenge this is for me? Well, if you’re reading this article, maybe you do!)
…until they are the ones making you mad
So I became better. I was getting control of my temper! I really had become a better person!
Until the baby became a toddler. Unreasonable. Ornery. Exasperating.
My sweet little baby who could do no wrong and I would do anything for, now…making me angry! Really angry.
My #1 trigger is when he attacks his younger brother. His latest antic – when he’s not hitting – is to scream in our younger boy’s face, “DON’T LOOK AT ME!” Until the baby hides his face in his hands. Eventually, when the screams keep coming, he cries. It’s heartbreaking, and infuriating.
Losing my temper with the kids
I periodically lose it. I snap, I yell, I’ve even swatted. I hate to admit that. I don’t believe in spanking or yanking or swatting or dragging or any of the things parents turn to when they’re so, so frustrated their kids are out of line and have pushed them over the limit.
So I work at it, really hard. I’ve researched ways to control my temper, I’ve talked to friends about it. I keep notes, as some article advised, and try to learn patterns, triggers, ways I can do better. I’ve sat at night next to the sleeping children and outright prayed.
Struggle, struggle, struggle
I’m under control for a good long while – weeks, months! – and then, BAM! I’ve lost it again. There’s no time to “take a deep breath, walk away, count to 10” and other anger management techniques. I’ve lost my temper and lashed out before I even realized it was coming.
Often I DO see it coming, and those are times I no longer lose my temper – so the techniques of watching, learning, breathing, leaving – they do work, just not 100% of the time.
Worse for us than for them
It scares children when we lose our tempers. I know this because I was raised by parents who lost their tempers.
I also know this because I see it: My son startles, he runs away, he hides under pillows, he cries.
It’s the worst punishment I could possibly get for my transgression. Knowing I’ve hurt my own child makes me feel lower than low, like the most horrible parent on earth.
In addition, it feels like a deep failure at parenting because I’m trying to teach him to control his own emotional impulses, not to yell at or hit his brother, then … I do the same to him? That’s no way to teach a lesson. It makes me feel like I’m acting like an emotionally immature toddler myself.
Good parents lose their tempers
Three things happened to change my perspective and make me realize I’m not the horrible monster flawed parent that I feel like when I lose my temper.
- I found The Orange Rhino. What a help and a relief! On The Orange Rhino (she explains that rhinos are peaceful until provoked), a mom talks about losing her temper, and her struggle to control it. She’s made a real study of it, and I learned a lot from her bravely sharing her experiences.
- I read a mom blog article, “5 Myths about yelling at kids,” which made the point that good parents lose their tempers. (And that bad parents might not!)
I see her point and agree! Here’s why:
- As good parents, we are spending copious amounts of time with our children. I don’t have to tell you: THAT’S DIFFICULT. It’s draining, and being drained leaves us susceptible to losing our patience and our tempers.
- As good parents, we are sleep deprived because we are serving the needs of our children 24/7. Not being well rested is certainly a trigger for losing our patience and our tempers.
- As good parents, we wring ourselves out like wash cloths providing what our children need: attention, resources, playing with them, reading to them, teaching boundaries, preparing nutritious food, getting them to the doctor, the playground, the park….it’s exhausting. Exhaustion is certainly a trigger for losing our patience and our tempers.
It makes total sense. Good parents do so much, we occasionally lose it.
Stay calm but carry on…
This is not meant to be an excuse for rage – I still try every day to keep my temper under wraps, to be patient and stay calm. To experience anger and frustration without lashing out.
But the occasional slip-up no longer sends me immediately to the depths of the inferno with guilt and self-loathing. I’ve learned to have some compassion for myself and recognize that I am at my wits end because I am a good parent.
3. I brought up my struggle to a support group of parents of toddlers. The group is facilitated by a wise woman who has worked with toddlers and their families for decades.
I made my confession: “I lose my temper.” I gave examples. I talked about how I carried out dozens of loving interactions with my toddler throughout the day – but if I lost my temper for even a split moment, I felt like a horrible parent.
I think I wanted the group leader to tell me – obviously – not to lose my temper. To reiterate what I already know: that parents can’t lash out at their children and expect to teach them to control themselves.
Instead, my complaint was…dismissed.
“Every parent with children this age loses it,” the group leader said without hesitation.
She even said it’s good for children to see us lose it occasionally, to know that there are limits beyond which we get truly upset.
I still strive to stay calm. But I’ve also realized that I can have patience and compassion with myself as well as with my children.